Lake Waikaremoana Track. A very atmospheric walk around a remote lake.The Milford Track. Unique animal and vegetation as well as wonderful waterfalls on the way to Milford Sound.
The Milford Track.Unique animal and vegetation as well as wonderful waterfalls on the way to Milford Sound. It is located close to the Routeburn Track, which I would walk instead of the Milford if not possible to secure a space.
Top day hikes:
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I walked this as part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit. This is a spectacular walk through volcanic craters and lakes next to Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom) with steam coming up from underneath.
The Great Walks are all relatively easy walks, with no scrambling required, thus appealing to people of average fitness and average hiking experience. They have also been chosen to represent the variations in scenery and ecosystems offered. The drawback to these walks are that all camping and hut spaces must be booked in advance via the DOC (online or in person), meaning that some of the most popular tracks sell out months in advance, most notably the Milford Track. I succeeded in getting tickets to all of the below walks a couple of days before departure, except the Milford Track (I finally booked with a commercial agency) and the Routeburn Track (I walked it in one long day).
There are plenty other hikes just as beautiful as the well-marketed Great Walks, some of them significantly more difficult. Unfortunately, I have, as of now, only walked a few of them.
Below a brief characteristic of each walk linking to an in-depth post:
The Queen Charlotte Track spans 70 km from the historical Ship Cove (Captain Cook´s New Zealand base) to Anikawa on the Queen Charlotte Sound in the Marlborough Sounds area.
The Queen Charlotte Track is not classified as a Great Walk, thus campsites are somewhat easier to come by as advance reservation is not required. In addition, numerous tour companies provide luggage transfer by boat along the route and comfortable accommodation in hotels is available. Furthermore, the track itself is of only moderate difficulty: An undulating and furthermore well-maintained trail with no major ascents. As a consequence, the Queen Charlotte Track attracts a somewhat wider audience than many of the other walks and is indeed one of the most popular tracks in New Zealand.
The track moves through subtropical forests with views of the Queen Charlotte Sound and strictly speaking, compared to the diversity of many other New Zealand walks I did end up finding Queen Charlotte Track a bit monotonous. From a technical point of view several of the Great Walks are just as easy to walk (such as the nearby Abel Tasman Coastal Track and Heaphy Track) and both offer more scenic variation. However none of these offer the touristic services that the Queen Charlotte Track does.
Boats to Ship Cove/Anakiwa and other points on the track leave several times during the day from Picton Harbor, where outfitters offer all the needed services (including track pass) to walk the Queen Charlotte Track. Campsite tickets available at the nearby DOC office.
Day 1: Picton-Ship Cove-Camp Bay Campsite.
Day 2: Camp Bay Campsite-Cowshed Bay Campsite
Day 3: Cowshed Bay Campsite-Anakiwa-Picton
Together with the Avalanche Peak Track, the St Arnaud Range Track was listed as the top day walk of Lonely Planet´s South Island travel guide. Which is why I chose this as my first walk in Nelson Lakes National Park, having arrived at St Arnaud´s village after a 20+ hours drive, straight up from the torrential rains in Milford Sound.
The St Arnaud Range Track is a straight-forward 600 meter climb from the east side of Lake Rotoiti, up through forest to the ridgeline. A 5 hour return trip. The forest is pleasant enough, the view from the ridge is fine. However, compared to the spectacular Robert Ridge Route to Angelus Hut just at the other side of the Rotoiti lake, I am curious as to just exactly why this hike was nominated a Top Two South Island day hike? Not to mention the superb Mueller Hut Track and the world class hike up the Pacific coastline from Kohaihai to Heaphy Hut?
A lush, tropical coastline combined with white beaches and relatively easy walking makes the Abel Tasman Coastal Track (or at least parts of it) the most popular of the New Zealand Great Walks.
The coastline between Marahau and Totaranui is the most popular, however the beaches become more beautiful the longer you walk, the best beaches being those after Totaranui: Anapai, Mutton Cove and Wharawharangi and the beaches in between. On the other hand, the seal colony at Separation Point, just before Wharawharangi was somewhat disappointing and probably not worth the detour.
It took me three days to walk the 63 km from Marahau to Totaranui and on to Wharawharangi along the coast track before doing an inland loop back to Totaranui in time to catch a water taxi back. I camped at Tonga Quarry and Anapai Bay. However camping at Tonga Quarry leaves only a short 2:30 hour walk to the tidal crossing at Awaroa, where the low tide did not take place until 6 pm.. With approximately 5 meters difference between low and high tide the crossing at Awaroa obviously need to be timed. That again meant that at the time I arrived at Anapai Bay it was 9 pm and pitch dark.
Strictly speaking, the Abel Tasman Coastal Track could be classified a walk, rather than a hike and indeed many chose to walk in jeans and sandals.
The beaches beyond Totaranui: Anapai, Mutton Cove, Wharawharangi. The lush, tropical coastline and hidden beaches.